Nov 132013

There are so many puns I could have used for the title of this blog post but I’ve been a good boy and refrained.

What you are about to read has been a long time coming. During my digital printing career, the best part of fourteen years now, there’s been one issue that’s bugged me throughout and just doesn’t want to go away.

In fact, it only seems to become more prevalent.

It occurred to me that the best thing to do in this situation would be to empower you, the art world, with the appropriate information and let you decide for yourselves.

So, here’s what’s been bugging me, along with what I know about it:

The word Giclée.

In the art world, Giclée has become a widely adopted term to describe inkjet printing of the highest quality — so much so that it’s even in my computer’s dictionary.

In galleries, websites and portfolios around the globe you’ll see it misspelled and mispronounced like no other as people try to get comfortable with this tricky word.

Even Photogravure and Daguerrotype (names for other processes) seem easier to say than Giclée.

Paul Kenny, O Hanami edition prints for Chris Beetles Fine Photographs

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — ‘O Hanami’ by Paul Kenny

A Little Bit of History…

The original intentions behind the use of giclée are totally innocent and honest.

Back in the Nineties, a famous established American printer called Jack Duganne was at the bleeding edge of digital inkjet printing technology.

In making his beautiful prints, Jack was among the very first people to offer inkjet printing commercially to the discerning fine art world.

But he needed a name for his process, a name that would sound elegant and really pop

“The French language sounds good”, thought Jack (who told me this himself many years ago), so he picked up an English-French dictionary and looked up the word for squirt or spurt — after all, that’s what happens when the printheads fire ink onto paper, right?

And, lo, Giclée was born and we’ve battled with its spelling and pronunciation ever since.

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From North Northwest Beginnings by Julian Calverley

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From ‘North Northwest Beginnings’ by Julian Calverley

What’s Wrong with Giclée…?

It sounds nice doesn’t it? And, in a way, it is.

Unfortunately, you only have to speak to a Frenchman (or, as happened recently, a Swiss friend) about your Giclée process to be sure of a drenching as a result of the coffee they’ve just spat all over you…

Why? Because, and there’s no easy way to say this, in French slang giclée means ejaculation.

In his first week working with me, Antoine (a wonderful French assistant) saw an email drop into his inbox entitled ‘Giclée Print Order’.

Through his tears of laughter, strong French accent and slightly broken English, he finally composed himself and managed to utter the now legendary words:

“Hey, Man, we’re going to be really tired after making these prints, no…?”

HP Designjet Z3200 Service Station

So, Which Name Should We Use..?

If you’ve ever worked with me or downloaded my Price List, you’ll know that I only ever use Giclée in brackets like this:

(sometimes known as Giclée)

Digital Inkjet Prints of the Highest Quality doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so I like to call them what they are:

Archival Pigment Prints (APP)

Take note, however, that I only use this name because that’s what they are — archival and made with pigment inks.

Be sure of your choice of paper and ink before you adopt the name to describe your own printing methods.

Liam Murray Caravan

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — Liam Murray’s ‘Caravan’

Spread the Word…

Once you’ve digested the information above, decide for yourself.

If, like me, you feel that Giclée should no longer be used to describe high quality inkjet printing, then spread the word — PLEASE!

Tell everybody who needs to know and, hopefully, we can make a difference…

  9 Responses to “Giclée: Your time is up!”

  1. Archival Pigment Prints. Or APPs for short…

  2. Yes, indeed — all hail the APP! JL

  3. Amazing Jack never heard the slang translation before lol! Still not a term I ever use always felt like it was akin to the Emperor’s new clothes I simply put Archival Print.

  4. Indeed, David. ‘APP’ has a nice ring to it, I think…don’t you? JL

  5. Problem is collectors need to feel confidence in what they are buying and galleries need something very simple so they can remember it. An abbreviation isn’t necessarily going to satisfy this requirement but as a industry technical term it works great.

    For me the issue is we can all print on so many different types of media all with their own qualities and draw backs yet we shouldn’t simply refer to them as APP and yet we don’t want to have ridiculously long descriptions on our work: > Archival pigment print on 100 gsm photo rag 100% cotton unbleached laid rolled on the tights of south american native indian virgins using the latest ejaculation ink delivery process!

    All the bells and whistles exist to make the photographer feel important the dodgy french name adds to this reassuring the photographer that he is indeed an artist.

  6. I’ve always hated the name Giclée. But now I know what it means I gonna start selling “Spunk Prints”.

  7. Good luck with that! Jack

  8. As a printmaker of HAND pulled prints I have huge issues with giclee not just its name but how it confuses buyers, they think they are buying prints when invariably they are buying reproductions. Dont get me wrong, i love digital art but that us what it should be called DIGITAL, be honest dont try to piggyback onto the work of printmakers.

  9. Dear Sally,

    Thank you for your interest. I had a look at your site — you have some lovely work and you’re clearly an expert in your chosen arena of printmaking.

    Hopefully you’ll have taken a bit of time to look around my site too. Alas, I think not as it’s a shame to see Printmakers’ Snobbery rearing its head in your comment…although it’s not the first time I’ve heard this naïve sentiment from people who consider themselves to be real printmakers.

    Although I would doubtless be unable to step into your environment and produce the same quality of work in your chosen medium, by the same taken, you might find it tricky to step into my shoes and produce prints in the same way that I do.

    Digital printmaking is just as valid a medium as your HAND pulled prints — a term which could surely fit right in alongside giclée… 😉

    Your assertion that digital printmakers are dishonest and that the work they produce is piggybacking on the work of real printmakers needs urgent realigning.

    You see, we are all in this together, earning a crust in the way we know best. Just as there are good artists and bad artists, there are also good printmakers and bad printmakers.

    Your medium and my medium are all part of the mix in the modern era and both equally valid. They are simply part of the endless choices to make when it comes to making artwork and thank goodness for the variety…

    One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years is to show a mutual respect for those working around you. That pedestal you’re standing on sure does look old and rickety…


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